The 2009 Boston Marathon Race Report

Despite the fact that the Boston Marathon starts at a rather comfy 10:00AM, I was up at a rather un-comfy 4:45AM in order to get to the buses on time.  Buses you ask?  Well, the Boston Marathon is a point to point affair.  Starting in Hopkinton (Mass.) and then bee-lining it straight to downtown Boston, 26.2 miles away.  So they bus you from the finish area, to the start line.

So with my yellow bag in tow, I arrived downtown shortly after 6AM and wandered through the empty streets to find the buses.  It was fairly straightforward in that I just followed the yellow bags.  At first it was a few here and there, and then as people funneled into the same routes it became a sea of yellow lemmings.

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At this juncture you get in line for the mass of buses.  They load probably 20-25 buses at a time, and then the next wave of them comes in.  Because all of the schools in Massachusetts have the day off for Patriot’s Day (the race is a Monday), we’re all on yellow school buses.  After about an hour of waiting, I score a seat on a bus.  Some folks were getting antsy – but here’s the thing to remember – it’s all just a big day of lines.  So ya gotta relax and go with the flow.  It’s a line to get on a bus, a line of buses to the start, a line to get into the village, a line for a porta-potty, a line to get to the start area, and then finally a big 26.2 mile long conga line to the finish.  Just go with the flow, you have PLENTY of time.

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About an hour later (we got stuck in some traffic), we arrived at a middle-school and high school complex in Hopkinton – near the start of the marathon.  They had setup a ton of large tents on the different athletic fields and turned it into a huge staging area.  There were porta potties, food and all assortment of other random free stuff hanging around.  I did find it kinda funny that when I look at the satellite map of it, it was clearly taken last year just before the marathon – as it actually shows the tents in the image (big white things on the grass).

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Anyway, here’s some pics of the area…

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Oh, the person to the left is Rob.  We run together in training and quite a few races. We both qualified for Boston at Philly this past year.

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After some time spent in the bathroom lines, we headed down to the start – which is almost a mile away from the school.  Not a big deal, you just wander on down.

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Eventually we found our place in line.  It was kinda funny though.  See, due to my qualifying time of 2:54 my bib number was 1966 – which meant I was actually in both the first wave and the first corral.  But…because I had no plans/desire to run a 6:30ish pace for Boston, I decided to instead enter in the 4th corral with Rob.  Which led to a funny interaction with a little old lady volunteer that said “Oh honey, you can go on waaaaay up there” (gesturing to the front of the pack).  It was funny because everyone around us heard it and all looked.  Thanks…but no thanks.

A few minutes after we arrived we were off!  Of course…that first involved getting to the starting mat.  So that took about 4 minutes.

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And then we found the start line (which is also visible on satellite imagery, pretty cool).

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So this would be a good juncture to go over the course route/profile.  As I noted, it starts in Hopkinton and roams to Boston through a series of communities.

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The course profile is the interesting part though.  The highest point in the course is actually the start.  And the first half of the course is largely downhill.  It’s not until the second half (up till mile 21) that things get really hilly and interesting.  And then from mile 21 to the finish it’s downhill/flat.

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As I’ve mentioned before, my race plan was to have fun.  Sure, my coach gave me some heart rate guidelines – but they were more ‘max HR’s’ so that I wouldn’t hose up the larger training plan at work here.  So that left pace largely an unknown.  We decided to just wing it (kinda like how I hadn’t even considered a nutrition plan until Sunday night when I started laying out my stuff).  We’d go faster when we felt like it, stop when we wanted to, and go slow when it made sense.

Which…brings me to the start.

Given the downhill nature of the first few miles, we knew it was going to be fast – which was fine.  We ran in a relatively comfy upper zone-2, which ended up being a relatively quick 6:30/mile pace (once you remove the multiple bathroom breaks we took – hydrating for a 10AM race is hard…).  But that wasn’t the interesting thing.  The real kicker was how fast we – as a group – were going.  Usually in mass-running scenarios like this the group is at large moving slowly.  But in the picture below – EVERYONE is moving at a 6:30/mile pace.  And for miles on end.  It was just really really cool.

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The second really cool thing (of many yesterday), was how many people were out cheering.  It was 26.2 miles of constant cheering.  There were really no gaps  Just people the whole way.  And everyone wanting to give high-fives…or free orange slices.  It’s really cool that the kids have the day off, as it gets them all out there and cheering.

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After that, we pretty much just roamed along the course at a pretty solid clip for the next few miles.  We had a lot of fun though, taking pictures constantly.  I took 147 photos during the race alone.  Yes…seriously.

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Of course…the part that many (well, many guys anyways) look forward to is Wellesley College.  This is where the all-girls school comes out to cheer everyone on.  In order to help you appreciate just how loud it is, I took a little video.  Check it out below (if you’re in an RSS reader, you’ll have to open the post likely).  Oh, and sorry for the slight bumpiness – I am kinda still running along sorta fast.

Oh, and here’s some of us (ok…us) stopping for the offered services.  We may have even stopped for a while…Only Mr. Garmin knows for sure.

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That’s Rob below…he’s currently single – but that’s questionable after yesterday.  You can enquire on his blog

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Shortly after that we passed through the half-marathon mark and then eventually through some of the early rolling hills leading up to Heartbreak hill.

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I found this sign kinda funny. It was posted all along the marathon route, aimed at cars…but also applicable to runners.  I really wanted to try and get one (just tied on made out of cardboard), but running with it for 10-20 miles might have been kinda difficult.

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Around the 12-14 mile marker we decided to slightly ease up on the pace a bit (down to about a 7:20 or so mile) to give ourselves some breathing room for the upcoming rollers.  But we were both feeling pretty good and really enjoying the day.  I had a BLAST at giving high fives the whole race (even in the last mile).

Here we are as we started into the Heartbreak hill section.  This section between miles 20 and 21 comes after a number of hills between miles 16 and 20.  This hill is one of the big definers in the course and is the last major hill before he downhill/flat section into the core of the city.

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Along the way a reader caught me on the hill and snapped a few photos.  Thanks Tim!

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Our strategy for Heartbreak hill was to slow down a bit and simply climb at an easier Z4 HR.  This worked pretty well and we easily slid by gazillions of people who were having a rough time on this portion.  A short bit later, we crested the top.  Here’s a photo looking back and then ones of both of us after the top.

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And then…it was time to cruise.  I had been doing some mental math since about mile 20 or so and roughly knew what our projected time could be.  Although we had no official plan or pacing thoughts, we had decided at the beginning of the race that we’d aim for sub 3:23 – which was the time we both had run the Marine Corps Marathon together in 2007.  But by around mile 20, we were cooking with much more gas and flying much faster than that finish time.  At that point a 3:09-3:11 time was looking more likely.  Given 3:10:59 is the cutoff for qualification for Boston (to get in for my age group), it seemed like a fun goal.  Now, our times from Philly already qualified us for two years worth of Boston (2009/2010) – so really this didn’t get us anything technically, but it seemed like a fun goal…

So…off we went.  We quickly picked up the pace coming down the hills and started to push a bit.  You can see it in my HR profile starting at the 2:35-2:40 mark.  Whereas the first 21 miles of the race was relatively easy and smooth (and low HR-wise).

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Of course, this didn’t mean we stopped having fun.  Oh no…we were still having a blast.  Given our newfound tempo, and how late it was in the race – we were passing people like it was going out of style.  A tag-team event per se, with him passing people on the right and me on the left.

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Along the way in the final stretch, I even saw fellow DC person Jeanne – see, she’s the one with the sign:

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And with a little bit of photo-fixing, you can actually read my name on the sign:

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And then there it was.  The holy-land.  The sign that means you’re almost home.  The Citgo sign.  The Citgo sign is near Fenway, and Fenway is just about a mile from the finish.  We kicked it up another notch.  With about a mile to go, we had approximately about a 7/min a mile to run.  Not a super-fast split, but we had to account for lots of weaving.

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Before we get to the finish though – I do have to draw your attention to this photo (below).  Now, it may look like any of the other photos pointing the camera backwards of Rob (in white)…but it’s not.  Nope.  It’s actually me running backwards…at pace…at mile 25.

…Which…

Drew an enormous cheer from the crowd.  With yells of “Holy cow that guy’s running backwards!”…”And taking pictures!”

…Which…

Made me ignore the fact that after 21 miles, running backwards really does cause.the.legs.to.burn.like.hell.  Highly un-recommended.

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Anyway…onto the finale (really, you thought it’d never come).  We rounded the last two quick turns and were on the main drag…Boylston street – with a GAZILLION screaming people (and The Girl screaming).  At this point, all you can really do is take it in.  Well…that an keep checking your watch to see if we can squeak in under 3:10:59 (again…just for fun).  It’s very hard to describe.  It’s unlike ANY other race I’ve done.  I think even more incredible than finishing an Ironman – the amount of people on the course is really the most amazing part.  And not just the end, but the WHOLE COURSE.

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At this point, it was time for one last picture before crossing the mat (and ensuring to look pretty for the official photo).

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Oh…and our final time…

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…plenty of time to spare.

Here we are just seconds after finishing.

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After that we began the long limp.  A very long waddle in fact.  Maybe close to a mile long, but it was probably for the best as it kept you (and your legs) moving.

First up was the water bottles.

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Then the space blankets (it was only in the mid-40’s with a 15MPH headwind).  Btw, for some the headwind bothered them during the race, but for me I never noticed it.

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Then came the chip for medal trade.  You put your foot up on a little wooden stool, and then they took off your timing chip and gave you a medal.  Seemed like a fair trade to me.

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Then you were given a plastic bag with some food in it.

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And then a man had a big box of bars…which you could take one…or more than one.

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And then finally we were left to wander off and find our school bus to pickup our bags from them.  This took a while…because I waddled a lot.

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Along the way to find my bus, I did see ESPN there – which was kinda neat.

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So with that, that’s all I got!  (Yes, you thought you’d never see the end).  While my legs did hurt quite a bit for the first 15 minutes afterwards, they actually felt rather normal by the end of the day (last night) – pretty much how they’d feel after any random 20-miler long run.  Today they feel pretty good too, a touch-bit sore, but not too bad.  Which is good… 

But best of all…I gots myself one of these:

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42 Comments

  1. Great race, great run, great report. It is certainly one of my strongly held goals to qualify for Boston once I hit the 40-44 age group and get some extra minutes – it is not going to be easy, but it is such a good goal…

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  2. Nat

    Awesome job Ray!! Woo-hoo. Makes me excited to get out and do another marathon this fall.

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  3. I’m not sure the sign meant for free open mouth kissing, but hey, its the Boston Marathon!

    That was the mother of all race reports. Pretty amazing that you got all those pictures, had a blast, and ran the time you guys ran. What a great way to see the race.

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  4. Dan

    Wow. What a great race report. The level of detail you include with your posts, and the many pictures, are very much appreciated. To BQ is one of my life’s goals. You better believe I’m bookmarking this report as my source for “all things Boston” if and when that day ever comes.

    NIce job, Ray, both running and reporting. Thanks!

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  5. Glad you enjoyed your little 26.2 jaunt from Hopkinton to Boston! You sound like you had a blast running it. A huge congrats!

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  6. So awesome to hear that you really had a good time! I love all of the pictures! 147! That is like a picture every two blocks or so!

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  7. Great job! Excellent race report. I’m so impressed you can take all those pictures while running that fast.

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  8. I knew you had qualified by a 13 seconds…but when I saw that picture of you taking a picture right near the finish line I had a stroke!!!! I would not have been as calm trying to get that BQ!! :)

    Nice (comprehensive) race report! I’m glad Boston was good to you!

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  9. sandy

    Fantastic race report!! Congrats on a great run!! It’s sounds like an amazing experience. I look forward to it when I’m 65 yrs old (if I can keep my current pace). :P

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  10. great report. Glad you guys qualified again. I too didn’t notice the headwind very much, but I’m very happy to blame it for my poor performance.

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  11. Great pics! It’s even more crowded than I envisioned. Nice time as well, considering your approach to the race. I bet Merga didn’t get a pictures every thousand feet.

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  12. Great race and report! The multitudes of pix were great, they (and the enthusiasm in the report) made me want to take up running, just to race in this!

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  13. nice; great job! so glad you had fun… one day I’ll join you out there…

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  14. It’s hard to notice a headwind when you are running backwards taking pics! lol GREAT RACE REPORT!!! Thanks for sharing all of the pictures and heck your time wasn’t too shabby for 147 pictures!!!

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  15. Plenty of great photos, not a bad time for a fun run a week after a tough tri. Awesome job.

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  16. Woo hoo! Sounds like you had a fantastic time. I love the sea of space blanketed people in your header photo now. Thanks for the super race report!

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  17. What a great race report and spectacular photos! I felt like I was there. That no stopping sign was perfect.

    Your time is way too smoking fast to have had that much fun and took all of those photos.

    You Rock Ray!!!

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  18. Ray, congratulations!!!! I was tracking you and rooting you on Monday morning. Congratulations on another awesome race and getting that BQ again. Makes me want to attempt to BQ. Only 1:04:51 to cut off to make the attempt… Maybe post IMC 2010 though!

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  19. Wow, Great post!! I was tracking you during the race – what a great run! I’m so excited to run it next year it looks so amazing =) I can’t believe someone kissed Rob – that pic is priceless. Congrats again =)

    -Ali

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  20. Congratulations! One of the best race reports I’ve read in a long, long time…

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  21. Awesome, just awesome. I can’t wait to be out there and hear all the cheering! Loved all the photos. It must have been a blast passing people up heartbreak and at the end.

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  22. Ray you ran a great race for just going out and having fun with it. Enjoyed all of your pictures that you took along your run. Keep up the great work.

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  23. Awesome. Congrats!!

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  24. Thanks for the report!

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  25. what they all said. although WHY you weren’t able to get my face in the pic, i’ll never know! i think we got a few good ones of you…in case you need more.

    It’s also the funnest race to WATCH too. Well done!

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  26. Congratulations Ray, great race! Loved the report and many photos. I feel like an armchair marathoner.

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  27. Good job. Looks like you had fun (although, that is THE most awkward kiss I have ever seen!). Is that a unicorn on your metal? Odd or symbolic?

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  28. Great Race Ray!! I dream of the day I can run a marathon and take a picture almost every minute while I run…heck, let’s be honest, I’d love to be coordinated enough to run AND take pictures!! Awesome post… :)

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  29. Kim

    That is just one of the best race reports I have read, with great pics and the video!! Congrats on a great race there!

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  30. Well done Ray!

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  31. This was fantastic – your report and pics brought back a lot of great memories. Thanks for taking the time to put all of this together. And your time is still pretty impressive, considering how much you were stopping for pics, kisses, etc.

    The pic of Rob’s kiss is hilarious! Kinda makes me want to rinse my mouth out, though.

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  32. Great job!!! Once again, a complete, well written and throughly enjoyable Post!! :)

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  33. That 10am race start sounds much nicer than the noon start I’ve had the 2 times I’ve run Bosotn in the past. But I suppose that just means you have to get up even earlier to get on those darn buses … And why was I thinking you’d have a photo of that long urinal trough I keep hearing about???

    Anyway, great job on the running and picture taking. Brought back a lot of fond memories to read your race report. Thanks!!!

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  34. That’s an awesome race report! Looks like you had a lot of fun along the way – the pics were great. Not a bad finish time either, haha.

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  35. Fantastic race report. Your photos brought back many memories for me from the day. Thanks!

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  36. Congratulations again! Just wanted to say that I love the new blog header! Ha, that’s a great shot!

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  37. What a great race report, Ray! Thanks for taking us through the entire event, step by step.

    And great job qualifying again!

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  38. That was an incredible race report…it brought back so many memories reading it!

    Congratulations on a great race!

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  39. Hey… I found your blog by Googling for reviews of the Garmin Forerunner 305. And you’ll definitely be on my running bookmarks from now on.

    This Boston race report was FANTASTIC, and I am glad I get to live vicariously through you, as I will almost certainly never make it to Boston myself. :-) To think, you averaged better than a 7:20 pace for 26.2 miles… and I just tried a 7:20 pace at the track the other day and managed ONE lap, with my pulse up to 193 by the end! (It was 85 degrees out, but still.)

    Anyway, I look forward to reading through your archives. As for me, feel free to check out my blog sometime, where I will no doubt still be waiting for the runner’s high.

    http://stillwaitingfortherunnershigh.blogspot.com

    Reply
  40. Just stumbled on your blog. I love this recap. Made me pretty excited for Monday!

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  41. Don

    Great Pictures! Brought my back to my race in 2010!

    Great experience!

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  42. Running Boston next week so I googled “Boston Race Reports” this was a GREAT one.. I love how guys stick to the facts.. I cant see the photos from this computer so I will check those out tonight.. Must be nice to run SO FAST and take photos.. IMPRESSIVE!

    Reply

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